In case you haven’t noticed, football season has been over for about two months here in Chapel Hill, so I am very excited about the return of basketball.The 2006-2007 UNC Men’s Basketball season begins tonight. As a Tar Heel fan I must give you my preview of the basketball team, but as a journalist I must also prevent myself from guaranteeing that UNC will win the National Championship. You have no idea how hard this is going to be. Give me 5 minutes.
UNC IS GOING TO CAPTURE THE NATIONAL…..uh, spotlight! Yes, Dickie V loves those guys. Holy s—, I almost said it. Please forgive me. On to the real preview.
Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year, as 93% of UNC’s offensive production from the 2005 National Championship team had left. That team ended the 2006 season 22-8, including a 12-4 record in the ACC and a huge victory over Duke in the seaon finale, spoiling J.J. Redick’s Cameron curtain call in perhaps 2006’s most exciting regular season game. Now sophomore 6-9 forward Tyler Hansbrough took the ACC by storm his freshman year, averaging nearly twenty points and eight rebounds per game, becoming the first player in ACC history to be selected unanimously to the All-ACC team and making Chapel Hilleans think, “Sean who?” Players like David Noel, Reyshawn Terry, and Wes Miller, leftovers from the 2005 squad who were not expected to contribute much, became essential to the team’s success. The 2006 Tar Heels were very special because they succeeded when no one expected them to.
With the exception of Noel and Byron Sanders, every important piece of that team has returned for 2007. The big reason they’ve been picked to run away with the ACC, however, is the new arrivals. Six All-American freshmen will don the blue, white and argyle this season in addition to the incumbents such as Hansbrough, Terry, Miller, Marcus Ginyard, Bobby Frasor, Danny Green, and Quentin Thomas. Freshmen of particular interest this season will be Brandan Wright, a 6-10 forward from Tennessee with enough talent that he is already projected to be an NBA lottery pick in 2007 if he declares, and Tywon Lawson, a 5-11 point guard who is drawing comparisons to Raymond Felton. This team is perhaps the most talented, top to bottom, in college basketball this year.
As much talent as the Heels have, they will certainly receive their fair share of challenges in the 2006-2007 season. Tonight UNC begins the NIT Tip-off with much weaker Sacred Heart, but they could very well face teams like Gonzaga, Indiana, and Tennessee. They play Ohio State and Kentucky at home and Arizona on the road. Then there’s the always challenging ACC schedule. It is highly unlikely that the Heels will make through this season undefeated, but their team depth would certainly give them a edge when March comes.
The 2006 Tar Heels were exciting because no one expected them to succeed. Now that everyone expects them to succeed, let’s see how they perform, starting tonight.
One more point I’ll leave you with about our team this season, that I learned about Tyler while attending Late Night with Roy:
Worst. Dancer. Ever.
7:05 pm: The starting five: Hansbrough, Wright, Terry, Wayne Ellingtom, and Frasor.
7:07 pm: 2-2. The game starts a little sloppy.
7:08 pm: 5-4, SHU. SHU hits a three, but Terry makes a great offensive rebound and Tyler scores.
7:10 pm: 9-5, SHU. Sacred Heart is really hitting its outside shots; they don’t even try to go inside.
Nothing scares Roy more than one of his big men on the free throw line. I swear Brandan Wright was shooting two and the fear of God was in his eyes.
7:11 pm: Terry commits two quick fouls; he’ll get an earful from Roy. 10-6, SHU. The football team must have jinxed them or something.
7:20 pm: 16-16. The swarm is insatiable at Shorty’s tonight; the delay was just trying to order.
All 16 of SHU’s points are long range, while all 16 of UNC’s points are in the paint, excluding free throws. Tyler hasn’t missed a step from last season.
7:22 pm: 20-18, UNC. Ty Lawson is fast, he wen t coast-to coast in three seconds. Tyler continues to own the paint. Our defense is suspect; no one has even tried to defend the perimeter.
7:23 pm: The hiring of Butch Davis is very exciting for the football team, but with the Buccaneers (NFL) struggling, I can’t help but wonder: what if we got Jon Gruden? He would whip those underachievers into shape. Fast.
7:24 pm: 25-18, UNC. Wes hits a three, ad Lawson hits a layup. Basketball goes at a much faster pace; it makes it so much harder to blog live. SHU has yet to attack the paint, and for good reason. they just aren’t big enough.
7:25 pm: 27-20, UNC. Tyler looks like he’s playing in the paint by himself. That’s his third dunk this half.
7:28 pm: Frasor’s back at point.There have been a lot of turnovers in this game. It may because it’s the first game. 27-22, UNC.
7:31 pm: Tyler’s out of the game, Wright fills his role. UNC still succeeds in attacking the paint. 29-24, UNC.
7:32 pm: No Bizarre ads yet. I’ve seen little of Marcus Ginyard, a big contributor last year. Tyler’s back and makes his presence felt.
7:33 pm: At this point, they should just let Tyler play by himself. He cannot be stopped. 33-26, SHU. Still too sloppy for my taste.
7:35 pm: Shocker to end all shockers–SHU attacks the paint…and scores! 35-28, UNC.
7:38 pm: Shorty’s is perhaps the only bar on W. Franklin Street with ESPNU. Maybe that’s why I look around me and “sardines” comes to mind. An elderly couple has been kind enough to let me sit with them, as all tables are taken and half the customers are standing.
7:41 pm: Ty Lawson’s back in the game. UNC hits a three to make it 40-34, but we’re still committing way too many turnovers.
7:43 pm: Wright’s an excellent post player, but he’s afraid of contact. He needs to bulk up more. 42-34, with 1 min left in the half.
UNC has these ridiculous shoulder stripes on their jerseys now. Go old school!
7:45 pm: SHU hits a three to end the half. 42-37, UNC. Two things the Heels MUST do better in the second half (and this season) is to:
- Commit fewer turnovers: UNC is just too sloppy with the ball.
- Defend the perimeter. SHU has had too many open looks at the three.
7:48 pm: I knew ESPNU wouldn’t let me down! Bizarre ad alert: Steve Nash has a basketball instructional video now, a la Tom Emanski, and College coaches were endorsing it, including…Coach K! Nash is a great player, is it kosher to do an instructional video while you’re still playing? Wouldn’t that give away his secrets? I think he lost his mojo the moment he shaved his head, and it will show this season. Mark my words.
7:57 pm: I knew Tyler was playing well, but Holy s—! He has 18 points and is 8-8 on his field goals. WOW.
7:59 pm: Does anyone know the most diplomatic way to brush off a Hare Krishna asking for donations? If so, I could use that advice right about now.
8:00 pm: ESPNU has a ticker counting down the hours, minutes and seconds to Ohio State vs. Michigan. That game is so big, it will be the first time I cover a non-UNC game.
Speaking of big, on October 13 (Late Night with Roy) The Dean Dome was packed with 21,500 fans who came to watch the Heels…practice. It’s obvious Chapel hill’s allegiance is to the round ball, not the pigskin.
8:05 pm: Game’s back on. 47-40, UNC. How crowded is it at Shorty’s? I ordered 45 minutes ago and have yet to see my dinner. Tylers scores again, and the foul! He’s a monster. At this point I think he throw up anything and it would go in. 50-42, UNC.
8: 09 pm: SHU commits a flagrant foul on Wright, and guess what? He misses his free throws! But Terry brings the house down with a huge dunk. 52-44, UNC.
8:13 pm: SHU keeps getting open looks. I don’t understand it. Frasor drains a three. 55-44, UNC.
8:14 pm: Apparently Bob Knight’s in hot water again, but I think it’s unjustified. Not since Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl has so much attention been paid to a chin in the sports world.
8:15 pm: Bizarre ad alert: Buffalo wild wings ad where everyone’s clapping over saving wings and cleaning up beer.
8:18 pm: Terry chases the ball wherever it goes. First he gets a basket off an offensive rebound, then he steals and dunks, then he receives an alley-oop. 61-45, UNC’s pulling away now. Terry has 10 points, all in the 2nd half.
8:21 pm: Ty Lawson’s back at point. There’s a scrum for the ball under the UNC basket, and SHU gets the ball. They miss an open 3, UNC gets the rebound, and Ginyard throws it away. Ugh.
8:24 pm: All I’m going to say about Sacred Heart: It’s in Fairfield, CT and is the second larget catholic university in New England.
8:25 pm: Just saw it first hand: Big game + alcohol + short fuses = trouble. Let this be a lesson to us all. 68-49, UNC.
8:28 pm: More excitement from Terry. 70-49.
8:30 pm: Tyler has to get hacked to miss his first shot of the night. Sacred Heart continues to hit the three. 73-54, UNC.
8:33 pm: Akron leads Gardner-Webb by 18. This may not be important to you, but I crammed it into your brainspace anyway.
8:34 pm: The lead is now 77-59, UNC. The heels have cut down on turnovers, but it’s still an issue.
8:40 pm: Something interesting I saw just now: UNC has a sizable lead, They’re not going to relinquish it, yet Roy has a look of horror on his face. Unbelievably, I understand why. This is the kind of analysis you can only get if I was at a bar.
8:42 pm: Over six minutes left, UNC leads 81-67. SHU is getting a little too close for comfort.
UNC is playing in Bobcats arena. the WNBA season has been over for two months. so why is the Charlotte Sting logo in the center of the court? Please explain. It’s now 83-67.
8:46 pm: The comparisons are justified. Ty Lawson does remind me of Felton when he plays out there. He attacks the paint and is ultra fast. 89-68, UNC.
8:49 pm: You gotta love JoePa. Nothing can take him away from football; he’s going to coach Penn State this Saturday with a broken leg and two torn knee ligaments. Doing so from the press box makes it no less impressive.
8:51 pm: One thing Tyler has regressed on this year: free throw shooting. He’s a dominant force in the paint (29 points tonight), but he hasn’t made his free throws, even though he was about a 75% shooter last year. Teams might start hack-a-Hansbrough this year. It’s now 96-70 UNC after a Wes 3-pointer with 2 minutes left This one’s pretty much over.
8:54 pm: UNC has hit 101 points. Bring in the substitutes! If this were a home game, we’d get free biscuits at Bojangles tomorrow.
8: 56 pm: Game’s over. Final Score: UNC 103, Sacred Heart 81. UNC played better in the second half, but the defense needs to be fixed, and soon.
Tyler Hansbrough was unbelievable tonight. He scored 29 points on 11 of 14 FG attempts. I he can play like that the entire season, he could be the National Player of the Year. I’m very optimistic about this team, but I won’t say Championship yet.
UPDATE (11/16/06): UNC played in a very similar fashion against Winthrop. In the first half UNC was sloppy, committing 14 turnovers and allowing the Eagles to score on the perimeter. They adjusted in the second half and the depth was just too much for Winthrop as the Heels pulled out the win, 73-66. The Heels have to play better if they want to go deep into March. Hansbrough was again the star, scoring 20 points and playing with nonstop intensity.